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Virginia and North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains

ShadowgrassTraditional music styles are sometimes lost on young audiences, but this has certainly not been true of bluegrass and old time music, where the youngest players are now performing with unprecedented artistry. Participation in youth instrument contests across southern Appalachia is at an all-time high, and young players are making the grownups pretty nervous in the adult categories as well. Last summer, then 11-year-old Presley Barker won the adult guitar competition at the annual Galax Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention, the veritable Super Bowl of guitar contests. Presley has joined forces with four other young local musicians to form Shadowgrass, one of the most thrilling bluegrass bands to emerge from the musically-rich Crooked Road area in recent memory. Kitty Amaral, age 13, first learned the fiddle from Jerry Correll, her neighbor in Elk Creek, Virginia, and has since immersed herself in the wealth of musical talent in her region, learning from and jamming with the likes of Eddie Bond, Kirk Sutphin, and Scott Freeman, with whom she recently began an apprenticeship through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program. Luke Morris, 16, first learned to play mandolin through the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program in his hometown of Galax. Luke has gone on to win numerous mandolin competitions and has returned to JAM to become one of their youngest instructors. Bassist Kyser George, 11, grew up steeped in the musical heritage of his native Stokes County, North Carolina, and is already considered one of the most solid bass players in the area. Clay Russell, 15, of Troutdale, Virginia, rounds out the group on banjo. Like his bandmates, Clay plays with a virtuosity that belies his young age, as was evident when he won the first annual Scott Street Five String Finals banjo competition on Richmond Folk Festival’s Virginia Folklife Stage in 2015.



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